The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

"The Media Fell for a Viral Hoax About Ivermectin Overdoses Straining Rural Hospitals"


Robby Soave (Reason) has the details, and seems to have done a good and careful job on the subject. An excerpt:

KFOR, an Oklahoma news channel, reported last week that rural hospitals throughout the state were in danger of becoming overwhelmed by victims of a very specific poisoning: overdoses of ivermectin, an anti-parasite drug promoted by vaccine skeptics as a possible treatment for COVID-19.

The story went viral, and was seized upon by the mainstream media. But its central claim is substantially untrue….

It was a story that appeared to confirm many of the mainstream media's biases about the recklessness of the rubes. But it's extremely misleading. There is, in fact, little reason to believe a purported strain on Oklahoma hospitals is caused by ivermectin overdoses; one hospital served by the doctor quoted in the KFOR article released a statement saying it has not treated any ivermectin overdoses, nor has it been forced to turn away patients….

It's instructive to take a closer look at what went wrong. Rolling Stone's version of the story, for instance, quoted from McElyea's interview with KFOR and did not provide any additional reporting or independently verified information. The image that accompanied the article on Twitter featured people waiting in long lines while wearing winter coats—which does not inspire great confidence that Rolling Stone knows what season it is in Oklahoma at present—and was summarized thusly: "Gunshot victims left waiting as horse dewormer overdoses overwhelm Oklahoma hospitals, doctor says."

Rolling Stone has now appended an update at the top of the story, clarifying that there were 459 case of ivermectin overdoses in the U.S. during the month of August, and though a state-by-state breakdown is not available, it would be surprising if this was straining the Oklahoma medical system. That's because the state is currently experiencing a seven-day-average of 1,528 hospitalizations due to COVID-19. If they're running out of beds and ambulances, it's because of the virus, not ivermectin. This was something Rolling Stone could have figured out on its own had the magazine bothered to contact any hospitals in Oklahoma, but alas….